I emerged from the arrivals hall at Denpasar airport in Bali. A sea of faces, all holding signs with names on them, greeted me. I scanned the line in search of my driver but couldn’t spot him. After doing a loop around and still not seeing him, I reluctantly checked my phone messages. He was there holding the black and white chequered Balinese flag. I had missed him amongst the masses.
We were soon out of the airport and battling the dense traffic through Denpasar before continuing up the east coast to Candidasa. I had booked an Airbnb hoping to be away from the tourist crowds around Kuta. It was slow progress, with scores of scooters zipping in between the cars and trucks. At last, rice fields and banana trees appeared instead of buildings. Two hours after landing, I arrived at my home for the next 5 days. Komang showed me my room, which was a typical Balinese style ‘villa’ in the family compound. By then it was 7pm local time but my body clock indicated it was 4 hours later. It was an early night.
The next day I explored Candidasa, having eaten my first breakfast banana pancake and sampled Balinese style coffee, which is not coffee as I know it. I went for a stroll around the large lotus pond situated between the busy main highway and the sea. It was a tranquil haven away from the constant roar of traffic.
Afterwards I ventured into the village area at the east end of town. Areas of very large houses were close to poorer ones in which small dwellings nestled amongst the banana and coconut trees beneath which pigs and cows grazed. Everyone nodded or smiled a ‘hello’ and several scooter riders stopped to ask if I needed a taxi.
Returning to the main road, I ambled to the other end of town, passing souvenir and clothes shops, cafes and restaurants along the way. On my return I went in search of lunch which I found at the bar on the beach in the form of an omelette and Bintang (local beer). My table was under a woven bamboo roof and shaded and had a view of the turquoise sea and a jetty, at the end of which was a covered area where a massage was in progress.
At ‘home’ I spent the next hour reading on a wooden bench above the beach having had a dip in the warm sea. In front of my lodging, the water almost reached the concrete wall. The coral hurt my feet and the current was strong, so I had walked further along to a small sandy area, shielded by a concrete pier. Once upon a time Candidasa had had a beautiful white sand beach which attracted tourists; that is until locals broke up a reef to use the coral for building. Erosion annihilated the beach which all but disappeared. They then built concrete barriers into the sea to protect what remained. Hopefully, they also learned a lesson!
I rounded off the afternoon with a pedicure and a massage by Wayan, reputedly one of the best masseurs in Bali. Having no comparison, I wouldn’t know but she was excellent (if firm!) and well worth the $15NZ.
For dinner I wandered down to the night markets at the end of town. The amount of activity in the road bemused me. People lined the street, either sitting on the edge of the pavement or on plastic chairs they had brought with them. There was a lot of music and noise. Groups of men were marching along in front of vehicles full of people dancing. Music blared from boom boxes on the backs of the trucks. I discovered the next day that this was one of the many events for Independence Day which is on 17 August. The groups were marching a distance of 45kms to Amlapura, the capital of Karangasem district, where the main events of the day would take place. The atmosphere was vibrant, and I continued to watch from my plastic stool at the warung whilst I enjoyed a cheap but non-descript chicken curry. I think they had forgotten the flavouring!